NEW YORK, Oct. 16, 2019 – In January 2019, Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson and Under Armour CEO and Founder Kevin Plank announced a collaboration which saw Under Armour become Virgin Galactic’s Technical Spacewear Partner. Today, the companies unveiled the collaboratively designed spacewear system for Virgin Galactic astronauts comprising of a base layer, spacesuit, footwear, training suit and Limited Edition astronaut jacket. It is the first such collection ever created specifically for private astronauts.
The design of astronaut apparel is a unique combination of the requirement for comfort and utility matched by the ultimate focus on customer experience. Every element of the Virgin Galactic customer journey is designed to enrich the profound and transformative qualities of the human spaceflight experience. For Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts, that life-changing, personal experience is eagerly anticipated and the newly unveiled spacewear has been specifically designed to support it.
“Virgin Galactic gave us an exciting challenge to build the world’s first commercial spacesuit,” said Kevin Plank. “Innovation is at the core of everything we do and our team delivered a unique twist on the classic spacesuit utilizing both existing and new UA technologies to define space gear for the future. It is an incredible opportunity to showcase our key performance innovations in space at the highest level and continue to push the limits of human performance.”
From the initial brief through to final fabrication, the suit design concepts were defined through inputs from a wide variety of experts, including doctors, astronaut trainers, pilots, apparel and footwear designers, engineers and Future Astronaut customers, to fully understand and address all requirements.
Safety is Virgin Galactic’s North Star and underlined the choice of materials and other key design considerations. The spacesuit is made from lightweight flight-grade fabrics, with cushioning in elbows, knees and in the footwear, to provide safety in out-of-seat zero gravity. The spacesuits are complemented by training suits which will help to optimize the effectiveness of astronaut preparation in the days immediately before spaceflight. The spacewear materials have been rigorously tested in laboratory conditions which match the measured environment at all stages of spaceflight. The system will also be worn by Virgin Galactic Mission Specialists on board VSS Unity’s crewed test spaceflights, prior to commercial flights which are currently expected to commence in 2020.
Spacesuits will be personally tailored for each astronaut; a great fit combined with bold and progressive aesthetics provide the first visible evidence of a journey of transformation, inspiring self-confidence and self-assuredness. While immediately identifying wearers as astronauts and as part of a mission, the spacesuits also provide differentiated features that recognize and celebrate each astronaut’s personal journey. Country flags and name badges build on traditions of the past, while suit pockets dedicated to personal effects include an inside transparent pocket for photographs of loved ones, who will literally be close to the heart.
Comfort has always been fundamental to Under Armour’s approach to performance enhancement and the new spacewear system follows this mantra, informing fabric choice, structure and fit. Temperature management, for example, is regulated by performance fibers and knit density, mapped to the body to provide perfect warmth and moisture management, while preventing overheating or chilling. Great care has also been taken to ensure the spacewear design is fully woven into cabin design, in particular with the spaceship’s seats where integration with harnesses and seat contours ensures comfort, particularly during the high G portions of flight.
The unveil event in New York showcased the spacewear system on a zero gravity, vertical catwalk, led by Sir Richard Branson in the spacesuit he will wear on Virgin Galactic’s inaugural commercial spaceflight.
Richard Branson said: “Spacesuits are a part of the iconography of the first space age; our visual impressions of human spaceflight and what astronauts wear are inextricably linked. Requirements for astronaut spacewear as we enter the second space age are evolving, but the design challenge has not diminished. We were delighted when Kevin and Under Armour stepped up to this task and they have surpassed our expectations. I love the way the spacewear looks and I love the way it feels. I also love the fact that the next time I put it on, I will be on my way to space.”